It was a decade ago at our cookery school when we first met Wendy Davies, who had dreams of opening her own vegetarian food business.
Since completing the Professional Chefs’ Diploma all those years ago, Wendy has been very busy. We catch up with her to see if her dreams became a reality…
This piece is a preview from our forthcoming members’ magazine, due out on August 4th. If you would like to get access to our magazine, and other benefits, find out what being a Vegetarian Society member is like here.
Wendy Davies and our Cookery School Manager, Jonathan Smith
The Vegetarian: It has been ten years since you completed the Professional Chefs’ Diploma here at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School – are you still learning new things?
Wendy Davies: As a chef, I never stop learning and inventing new recipes. I learn from a variety of sources. I am a huge fan of cookery books. I use the Internet too, but I absolutely love my cookery books. I recently learnt even more about balance, variety on our plates, and how our diets can influence our health and well-being. Everything we eat can make a difference and we are in charge of that.
TV: How long have you been veggie for and what inspired that choice?
WD: I have been vegetarian for almost 30 years, and more recently vegan. I decided to make a difference with my then boyfriend Simon (now husband) when I was 21. At the time, I was living in London with my friend Sue, also veggie and a very good cook. She started to introduce me to new ingredients, recipes and ideas and I loved it, I started to experiment too.
Wendy’s tomato and peach salsa, and a butternut and cumin dip
TV: You are from the UK, but are now living in Brittany. Do you cook differently for yourself and your family now that you live in France?
WD: Having enjoyed holidays in France for over 20 years before buying our home, I was already a huge fan of the local markets. I wasted no time in exploring our region. I loved the smells, the noise, the hustle and bustle, the colours, the whole ambiance, I was in my element. I have become so much more aware of the seasons and how much better fruit and vegetables can taste when it is bought in season. Shopping locally too has become very important for me and my family. My principles are: seasonal, local, organic, and French.
TV: Tell us a little about what you are doing at the moment?
WD: Running my own cookery school – workshops for both adults and children, coaching individuals to make changes to their lifestyles through food. I am also working on two exciting writing projects; working with my local vegetable grower and writing my own cookery book.
Wendy’s fresh basil pesto made with homemade vegan Italian-style hard cheese
TV: What is the vegetarian and vegan scene like in France?
WD: Over the last ten years, there has been a gradual improvement in understanding what exactly a vegetarian can eat. There has also been an improvement in the range of vegetarian and vegan products available. There has been an expansion too of cookery magazines dedicated to vegetarian [eating]. The vegetarian and more recently the vegan scene in Paris is well established, in some of the larger cities too, there are restaurants, and vegetarian-related businesses springing up all the time.
TV: What are your greatest achievements?
WD: Opening my cookery school, teaching vegan patisserie to French patisserie apprentices, giving a conference on sports nutrition, my regular slot on French TV, selling my cupcakes and cookies, and making my own sourdough starter from the grapes on the vine in my garden. It took seven years for the grapes to become established. Real slow food.
Wendy’s potimarron, tofu and feta served on a bed of crisp green salad
TV: What’s the best thing about the food in France? Is there anything you miss from the UK?
WD: I love the markets, the bold celebration of the seasons and how proud they are about their regional food. There is nothing quite like a freshly-baked baguette. I think there is something about the sheer choice though of vegetarian and vegan food available in the UK. Things are just starting to happen in France.
TV: Can you tell us some of your favourite recipes?
WD: In summer, paella is fabulous with courgettes, peppers, haricot verts with smoked tofu, garnished with toasted flaked almonds, and fresh parsley. A potimarron [a type of squash] and cumin soup is perfect for a cosy autumn evening. Potimarron is perhaps my favourite vegetable
Wendy runs Chamomile Cuisine, a vegetarian cookery school based in Bieuzy les Eaux, Northern France. For more information please visit http://www.chamomile.fr
Inspired by Wendy’s amazing story?
If you are a professional chef, restaurateur or maybe just an experienced cook wanting to get into vegetarian catering, this Professional Chefs’ Diploma is for you.